And now to dedicate some words to the incredibly fantastic human being that changed our world and unlocked my full capacity for emotion. Our sweetest Roman turned one a couple weeks ago, and so far he is blossoming into quite the energetic and intelligent little goofball.
I have been putting off writing about him only because I feel my words cannot do justice to the special spirit that he has. I try to capture moments of him through as many mediums as I know - pictures, video, writing to him, writing about him, having others write things to and about him - but nothing fully captures the wonder that is pure Roman-ness. Hopefully in a few years I will look back at these pictures/videos/writings and catch a glimmer of his full self in all his beautiful babyhood.
In all my years dreaming about motherhood I never envisioned a baby with such a complex disposition who has had such an alert presence from day one. He is joyful, astute, sensitive, and determined. I've heard a fair amount of other people say they were grateful when the newborn stage was over because they were happy that their "little, hungry blob" was starting to develop a personality. I never felt that way. For me, every time Roman was able to express himself better it was him finessing his already-clear personality. I would take one look at him and his new ability to make a face in reaction to his surroundings and go "That is SO Roman!" He came out knowing exactly who he was, and it will be my job to keep him confident in that knowledge.
A few specific things about his year:
- Despite some photographic evidence he never took to bottles. He went straight to the straw at about 6 months!
- He loves to make people laugh! At 3 1/2 months old we were over at Auntie Randi's house and he figured out that we all started laughing when he laid his head on her bosom in a particular way. He started putting his head down then popping right back up to check and see if she was laughing. Down, up, down, up! Over and over until we were all busting a gut. His smile was so big then! He still likes to figure out what makes us laugh and then he will repeat it as often as possible. My personal favorite is his very loud, terribly fake laugh that he uses when he's not sure what the rest of us are laughing at. It's delightful and quickly makes HIM the center of hilarity. It always trumps the funny thing that started the laughter in the first place.
- He adores animals! He lights up when he sees a cat or a dog. They even get his exclusive wave when we are out in public (where he refuses to wave at anyone else). He loves petting them and attempts to smother them with [well supervised] affection. Barking was one of the first non-babbling sounds he made, and said "gaaah" (for "cat") before he said "mama"!
- He likes to body slam us if we are laying on the floor and the pillows on the couch.
- He loves cars and trucks, throwing balls (I think he has a good arm for a baby!) and his xylophone.
- I guess I've been a neat freak since he was born because he loves to wipe down surfaces with wipes/cloths/socks whatever looks like a good duster. He is also a bit obsessed with vacuums and brooms!
- He likes to put caps back on items, and scoop food out of dishes with spoons. I know it's not that extraordinary, but it's so dang cute!
- He likes to get into Reading Position when it's story time and will climb right into my lap or sit nestled in beside me as we read. His favorites are Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and Never Touch a Monster. I like to dramatize my reading, so during Chicka Chicka he wails along with the "OH NO" when all the letters are falling from the tree and huffs a good huff when "G is out of breath." He's also a masterful page turner. Can even turn them with his foot, he can!
- He blows raspberries on my arms and legs when I least expect it. He also did that recently to my mouth which was adorably shocking.
- He's learning to run away when I say "I'm gonna get you!" but stops shortly and starts to squeal delightedly at the prospect of getting eaten. Sounds way more violent in writing than in practice. I assure you it's safe and child appropriate. From the beginning I've been surprised at his ability to anticipate. I thought that was a concept learned in time, but he knew from just a few weeks old that if I was hovering over his feet he'd get an avalanche of kisses soon. His expression was absolutely one of expectation and excitement!
- He's a little wannabe drummer. Ever since my mom put sticks in his hands at 5 months old he has been a rock'n'roll star!
- He loves to stomp his feet and use those toes to explore the world around him. There is nothing he won't step on, which is another trait that started back around 4-5 months old when his dad was pretend walking him around the house. I remember the first time I saw him determinedly stomp on his dropped pacifier. So resolute!
- He was climbing stairs at 7 months old, before he could crawl. Then it was up the slide at Munchkin Playland before he could walk! I admire and am afraid of his love for climbing and adventure! Luckily it's tempered by some fear of the unknown, and as I watch him explore the world more and more independently I see him test the limits before he takes a plunge. Like in our backyard he won't just jump down a patio step before getting on his hand and knees to see how far down it is.
I could go on and on, but it's getting late and I'm publishing this tonight - sleep be damned! Speaking of which, his glow wouldn't be so bright if it weren't punctuated by some darkness. It certainly as not been all sunshine and smooth sailing. First, breastfeeding was very hard! I think this is pretty common knowledge now, but that doesn't make it better. I'm so grateful I was able to breastfeed him his first year (and still do nurse 1-2 times a day), but it was grueling. I didn't feel like it helped my bond with him anymore than feeding him from a bottle would have. Either way you get to hold your baby and be close. Until about 8 months in breastfeeding was more painful than pleasant. He nursed SO MUCH at the beginning (every 45-60 minutes the first few weeks, then 60-90 minutes for a few months, around the clock) that I was not only extremely sleep deprived, but if I got a break that threw off his schedule an hour I would get engorged, hard, and painful. Twice I had blockages that made the engorgement last far longer than it should have (I'm so lucky that I dodged getting mastitis). After we tapered to a better schedule (around 6 months) it felt like I was being pricked by needles every time he ate. Not pleasant. But he wouldn't take a bottle and didn't drink enough from any other cup, so I felt compelled to stick with it. The last few months the nursing sessions were fast and pain free, and I finally got a chance to see why other mother's like the experience so much!
That whole paragraph may be TMI and slightly off-topic, but it comes with the territory!
We also had sleeping issues in general. There was one night in July that he slept through the night, I was so excited! But then his top teeth started coming in and he was back to waking up several times a night, poor kid! I'm happy to report that the last few weeks we have gotten on a decent schedule where he's down around 8:30 and up at 6:30. My life is so much better now that I'm getting 6+ hours of sleep a night! Energy is up and anxiety is down, it's a game changer!
The last trait that makes life a bit difficult for both of us sometimes is that he has a low threshold for frustration. If we have to put the kabosh on something he wants, such as letting him play in the toilet or drinking a jar of poison [kidding! I don't have jars of poison laying around the house], he can throw quite the fit! He's also got great focus, so distracting him with a safe, age-appropriate toy doesn't always work. We are figuring it out. As he gets older I look forward to helping him handle his frustration in more constructive ways. And at least I know I have the ability to stay firm with boundaries. I have a tendency to coddle, so if he's throwing a fit about something I said "No, that might kill you" to it's a good indicator to myself that I'm on the right track.
I'm very much looking forward to him learning to talk and sharing what's on his mind. He's going to astound me with his thoughts, I know it. Mark my words, this kid will make me laugh more than I ever have before and his perspective will make me think deep about things I thought I knew. I already dread the day I have to let him go into the great big, brutal, boring, terrific world, but he will be ready for it and he will change it. He is imperfect and wonderful. He is enough exactly the way he is.